Growing up I always loved pop up books, it was a simple but elegant way of visually bringing books and stories to life. The modern form of the pop up book comes in the form of Augmented Reality books from Carlton books, which use smart phones or tablets to bring to life literally through that device, sections of that book in an impactful way. Now combine that with the Alien film franchise and you have something that promises to provide a very special experience for fans.

The U.S.C.M. (United States Colonial Marines) Alien Augmented Reality Manual is a guide set in the Alien universe but presented in the form of an information manual for training U.S.C.M. marines to familiarise themselves with the Xenomorph threat. As soon as open the book and find the contents page you will be shown how to download the required app on IOS or Android to use with the book and will have the reader up and running in no time at all. I used my tablet for this as it has a bigger screen and enhanced the app use but my phone worked just as well but I preferred the larger screen.

The manual uses the cinematic film universe and references to the Aliens: Colonial Marines video games to form Case Studies to be read, containing information and pictures from the film which the book presents as if you are a budding Colonial Marine about to head out into the blackness of space to fight the Xenomorph threat. It can be a little corny to read but it is all part of the fun. Not only does it feature the original Alien Trilogy of films but also the more recent Prometheus and Alien: Covenant so it is as up to date as it is possible for this film franchise.

The Case Studies are pretty much what you would expect them to be as they give a short overview of the film featured including where in the universe it all happened and with information related to the events of that film with quotes thrown in for good measure. Depending on which film the case study is based on will also effect the additional information that is included such as how to fight the Alien and at times this can feel a little thrown into the pot for good measure and may not fit the narrative of that particular case study. But that is mainly due this book being presented as a training manual, so in that context and theme it makes sense to include additional writing to explain how you would fight an alien or how to survive an encounter with one or many but for me, it would have made sense to have it as its own case study rather then just added to one for the sake of keeping it all Marine.

Now what makes this book really stand out is indeed the Augmented Reality which I really enjoyed and did fill as something extra when reading this book. As a fan of the films, I did enjoy taking the case studies for what they were and enjoyed going down memory lane revisiting the information from the original films. Now the way this works is pretty simple, some of the case studies will have pictures that can be used with Augmented Reality app on your device. These pictures will be greyed out in the book so the reader will easily identify which ones can be augmented and the app will use the camera on the device which then triggers a video played through your device in the app to play. The really cool thing is how the images become an almost 3D hologram through your device, sitting on top of the page itself of the book, which is very cool especially when you can witness an Alien Egg actually open right before you.

There are also training activities which are really mini games to play via the app with the book such as trying to land a dropship or using a motion tracker to scan and find nearby aliens. The reader will even have the chance to perform a dissection on a face hugger. Some are trickier to play than others but it is a really fun aspect thanks to the Augmented Reality the book offers and does work well.

I do have some issues with just how the book is presented. The above training activities are all located in the middle of the book which personally I feel would have worked better if they had been placed throughout the book and just after a case study or two instead of just placed all together in the centre. Also some of the captions that go with the pictures in the book are either incorrect or just attributed to the wrong character or item which is clumsy at best and noticeable for those really familiar with the lore or die hard fans.

Overall this is a really fun book and a nice collection of information from the all the films which fans can appreciate. The Augmented Reality works tremendously and the app is really easy to install and use and if you can use a tablet even better but a good smart phone will be just fine as well. The activities and mini games provide an extra and fun aspect to the book and the case studies themselves are enhanced whenever the chance to use the AR app on a picture to really bring it to life.

One for fans certainly though for the diehard the main fun will come in the AR content rather than the information which they would already know but for fans who maybe only came to this franchise with Prometheus or Alien: Covenant then this guide is a great way or filling in some of the history and lore to the films.

U.S.C.M. (United States Colonial Marines) Alien Augmented Reality Manual is available from Amazon or directly from Carlton Books.